As I write this, I’m in the midst of recovering from a breakthrough case of Covid-19. It has been over three weeks since I first tested positive and over a week since testing negative. And I’m still having Covid-related symptoms.
This experience harkens back to my other experiences with recovery. It’s been nearly 25 years that I’ve been in recovery from Anorexia. I did not have the privilege of eating disorder treatment. I have, since then, been able to work in the world of eating disorder treatment and working to make treatment accessible to those in communities with limited access.
I have spent so much time over the past few weeks laying down. Saying no. Turning down opportunities. Conserving my time, energy, and resources. I am doing my best to honor what my body is needing at this time, though it seems like a combination of complex and simple strategies. Boundaries are a part of my recovery and a part of my body acceptance practices. Appreciating my body even when it is not productive is also part of those practices.
When I was presented with the opportunity to create for Body Acceptance week, I immediately thought of the overlaps in these recoveries. I have done my best to deepen my eating disorder recovery at every opportunity. My recent experience with Covid-19 has certainly highlighted that for me.
In so many ways, my body has changed over the course of my life. My dear friend Dianne Bondy (https://diannebondyyoga.com/) helped me to find the term “active healing” as a replacement for “chronic pain”. Through my mindfulness and yoga practices, I have come to honor the wisdom my body holds for it’s own healing and recovery, while balancing the benefits of modern science and advances in medical care. And that seems more complicated in the face of subtle symptoms.
At times, it can be complex to even determine what is a symptom of this illness. Over the past few weeks, I felt waves of deep emotion in ways that were out of the ordinary for me. Was that a symptom? Probably. Meta-analysis studies of Covid-19 survivors and those with acute Covid-19 indicate a high incidence of severe psychiatric symptoms during acute Covid-19 and moderate to severe during the recovery phases (Xie, Liu, Xu, et al, 2021). So how does this relate to Body Acceptance?
Our emotional experiences are held in our bodies. Emotions are intelligence collected from our experience and shared from our nervous system. For so many of us, we were taught that our feelings were too big, that we were overreacting or that our sensitivity was a liability. Through my personal development work, I’ve been able to learn holding my big feelings with grace and reverence. For me, this is part of body acceptance. Welcoming the ways that my body exists in space, awareness of my internal experience, and acceptance of the feelings that arise within me. For me, this is also a liberation practice. It is a process, an unfolding. It is not linear. As any recovery process.
At times, this recovery is challenging. And doing things that are challenging but the right choice has been the way that I move from body acceptance to body love. I do my best to nurture the body I live in, to hold those needs with respect and reverence. This also requires me to spend enough time in quiet meditation so that I can learn recognize those needs. That is what love looks like for me; learning, honoring, nurturing and surrendering into trust. As simple as this may sound, it is certainly an advanced practice.
If you are working towards recovery, I invite you to consider a practice of intentional nurturing. This could look like many things: becoming fully present with yourself, practicing empathy, finding joyful activities, providing physical comfort, validating your experience, holding boundaries around your time, space or energy. A practice is not meant to be perfect. It’s a process that helps us to learn and grow. My personal practices are guided by my intuitive self-care efforts. I have “tried on” many practices that didn’t resonate or feel like the a good use of my time. So I moved on, knowing I could come back to them later if I felt called. For me, allowing my body acceptance to expand beyond my physical appearances has allowed me to expand into body love.
Celisa Flores, PsyD, E-RYT, NBCC is an international speaker and trainer who has worked in the area of Mental Health for over twelve years. Her goal is to help individuals reach their optimal selves and lead a harmonious life, as well as challenge the stigma of mental health concerns or diagnosis. In addition to her training as a therapist, Celisa is a Certified Yoga Teacher, trained in Mindful Stress Reduction and trained as a birth and end of life doula. In addition, she focuses her time on coaching around body autonomy, personal and professional development and self-liberation. Website: drcelisa.com IG: @dr.celisa
Xie, Q., Liu, XB., Xu, YM. et al. Understanding the psychiatric symptoms of COVID-19: a meta- analysis of studies assessing psychiatric symptoms in Chinese patients with and survivors of COVID-19 and SARS by using the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised. Transl Psychiatry 11, 290 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-021-01416-5